Bringing home the bacon: centuries-old tradition to return to Dunmow

The humble folk toss their hats in the air at the Dunmow Flitch Trials 2016

The humble folk toss their hats in the air at the Dunmow Flitch Trials 2016 - Credit: Saffron Photo

The centuries-old Flitch Trials will return to Great Dunmow this summer after a six-year hiatus.

Married couples will vie for a flitch - or side - of bacon, which they will only receive if they can satisfy a judge and jury that they "had not wisht themselves unmarried for a twelvemonth and a day".

Mr and Mrs Hurst with their flitch of bacon in 1980

Mr and Mrs Hurst with their flitch of bacon in 1980 - Credit: Dunmow Flitch Trials Committee

Mr and Mrs Hurst at the 1980 Dunmow Flitch Trials

Mr and Mrs Hurst at the 1980 Dunmow Flitch Trials - Credit: Dunmow Flitch Trials Committee

The Flitch Trials take place on July 9, 2022, but its origins are thought to date back some 918 years - to a priory in Little Dunmow in 1104.

According to the Flitch organisers, the Trials began when Lord of the Manor Reginald Fitzwalter and his wife dressed up as 'humble folk' and asked a prior to bless them one year and one day after their marriage.

The prior was so impressed with their devotion to one another, that he rewarded them with a flitch of bacon.

The Dunmow Flitch Trials in 1905

The Dunmow Flitch Trials in 1905 - Credit: Dunmow Flitch Trials Committee

Fitzwalter agreed to hand his lands to the priory, on the condition that a Flitch should be awarded to any couple who could lodge a similar claim.

In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer referenced the "bacon at Dunmowe" in his famous The Wife of Bath's Tale.

Richard Wright, from Norwich, was the first recorded Flitch winner in 1445.

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The winners of the last Flitch in 2016 were: Ralph and Helen White of London; Christopher Atkinson and Meredith Atkinson-Wood of Stebbing; Mohammed Mizan Sabur and Emma Marcus of Dunmow; and Geoff and Caroline Parkes of Diseworth near Derby.

Ralph and Helen Wight at the Dunmow Flitch Trials in 2016

Ralph and Helen Wight, who convinced a jury that they had not wisht themselves unmarried again for twelvemonth and a day in 2016 - Credit: Saffron Photo

Christopher Atkinson and Meredith Atkinson-Wood, one of four couples deemed worthy of winning a flitch of bacon in 2016

Christopher Atkinson and Meredith Atkinson-Wood, one of four couples deemed worthy of winning a flitch of bacon in 2016 - Credit: Saffron Photo

Mrs Caroline and Dr Geoff Parkes after winning a flitch of bacon in Dunmow, 2016

Caroline and Geoff Parks, deemed worthy of winning a flitch of bacon in 2016 - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography

Mr Mohammed Mizan Sabur and Ms Emma Marcus at the Dunmow Flitch Trials 2016

Mohammed Mizan Sabur and Emma Marcus, who later became Mayor of Great Dunmow, winning a flitch of bacon in 2016 - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography

The successful Flitch claimants are carried shoulder-high through Dunmow to the Market Place.

There, they make an oath while kneeling on pointed stones.

The Flitch Trials are held every four years and was due to take place in 2020, but was pushed back to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr and Mrs Harding, who won a flitch in 1980

Mr and Mrs Harding, who won a flitch in 1980 - Credit: Dunmow Flitch Trials Committee

Preparations are now underway for this summer's affair.

Helen Haines, vice-chair of the Flitch Trials Organising Committee, said: "The counsel are sharpening their pencils.

"The pigs are being fattened.

"The judge is trying on his robes and the jury are eagerly awaiting their chance to play a part in history."

Great Dunmow Town Crier Richard Harris at the Dunmow Flitch Trials 2016

Great Dunmow Town Crier Richard Harris at the Flitch in 2016 - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography

The Flitch Trials take place at Talbards Ley, Great Dunmow.

Tickets are on sale now from Flitch Travel, High Street, or online: https://www.dunmowflitchtrials.co.uk/